How Filmmakers Stay Sane on Set

Toni Attell and Carl Gottlieb are the authors of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers.  Enjoy an excerpt of their book below, provided by IndieWire.

The source of most drama outside of the script is the actors, and anywhere they congregate may be a hotbed of intrigue, gossip, and disinformation. This is also true of anyone who talks to actors, so view the makeup, hairdressing, wardrobe, and transportation departments as minefields. Even on a low-/no-budget production, where all the departments are combined in the person(s) of your overworked colleagues, a few misplaced or ill-chosen words will resonate throughout the production, and anything said in confidence is public knowledge as soon as it can be repeated. A favor for one will be expected by all, and any violation of boundaries will result in the loss of those limits.

This is not to say a director cannot speak or be spoken to; if that were true, directors would be the loneliest people on the set. Feel free to chat about wind and weather, but remember that in all close-knit male groups, from nineteenth-century British colonial armies to the crews of nuclear submarines, there are three topics deliberately ignored: women, politics, and religion. In a less gender-specific world, include members of the opposite sex as subjects to be avoided. Add to those topics these sources of friction: the problems of the production, the character of the personnel, and the personal lives of everyone on or near the set. The director’s problems are uniquely off limits; like the captain of a ship or the leader of a combat patrol, his or her thoughts must remain private. We discussed the director’s isolation before; it goes with the job, it even has a name: “the loneliness of command.” If you must share gossip and commentary, do it with someone far from the set or the production: a therapist, a life partner, a close family member, or an animal companion (these may all be the same individual). If you’re a writer, your closest confidante may be the director. If he or she is not sympathetic, the same limits apply to your options.

A strategy (or habit) that many executives (including directors) find useful is to acquire or maintain a group of friends or confidantes with whom you can share frankly and safely. The advantage of this is that the natural loneliness of command is softened by a close-knit circle of advisors, sounding boards, and lieutenants who can be trusted to keep people and things organized and functional (including yourself, on the bad days). But, beware—the inherent danger is that your group becomes a “posse,” a gang that gives the appearance of a support group but is, in fact, a barrier. These individuals are people whose principal interest is preserving their turf, influencing your decisions, and insulating you from all criticism and useful input. They become gatekeepers and relish the role.

Keep reading this excerpt on IndieWire!

 

Originally conceived as a workbook for young directors, The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers has become a handbook for easy reference, with all the information a student director/actor/producer needs to create a film, from inception through production, to sales, distribution, and exhibition. The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

The Hollywood Style of Acting

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers (with Carl Gottlieb). Below is a post from her blog, The Acting Biz. Please pay it a visit for more inside tips on showbiz!

Welcome to Hollywood! You will find many excellent coaches, agents, and managers here. However, please take baby steps as you start out in this business. Acting is a business. Your face, body, and talent are all embedded in “YOU.” You are the merchandise. The casting director already has your image in a picture, so make choices with your objectives (what the character wants) and your movement through spine and back life (that help the words, written by the writer to life).

First let me suggest that before you do anything, know that Hollywood has a style unlike most other states and countries, so like any business, you must learn the different styles of acting and then find the acting techniques that work for you, and feel free to mix the ones that work for you. Do not get stuck in just one style of acting. Learn Meisner, Uta Hagen, Bill Ball, Viola Spolin, Nina Foch, Alexander, Paul Sills, or Method styles and techniques, and combine them. You have to prepare before you get to the audition or set, as there is no time for a director to work for a long period of time with actors. Make your choices before you go to the audition and then forget them and do no “try” to be the character … just let the character make choices — in the moment. If you have done your homework, the choices will come. This is called the spine of the character.

Please do not let yourself be seen by an agent, manager, or casting director until you know your acting is ready to be seen. Big Mistake! Don’t take pictures or spend any money, unless it is to learn your craft through classes and then you can do the next steps.
Any agent or manager that asks for money is not a legal representative. Do not give your photos to a photographer without your permission or to anyone else, or you might end up as a cover for an insurance packet or other promos, and you will never get a nickel from it, as photos are not covered by SAG/AFTRA. This is a business, so remember to treat it that way.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers  discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Carl Gottlieb and Toni Attell, an interview

 Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, both authors of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers, Toni Attell and Carl Gottlieb, chat with Off the Meter host Jimmy Failla about their book, acting classes, and filmmaking. This episode has been re-edited and posted on Onstage and Backstage podcast with permission of Off the Meter.

>>>LISTEN HERE<<<

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Read Your Contracts

TONI ATTEL HEADSHOTGuest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

As actors or parents of children who are actors, we are always thrilled when we get the job.  We get to the set early, get our hair and make-up, don our costumes, and then there is the knock at the door. It is contract signing time. Please read all your contracts very carefully. If there is something on the page that makes you uneasy, then question it.  Here are some suggestions for young actors and parents.

  • If you have a question, call your agent or manager.
  • The assistant does not always know what is in your contract.
  • If they are taking pictures and you are to be paid, make sure they have that part of the contract there for signing. SAG/AFTRA does not cover photos.
  • If you are not Union, take your time, as you can do one non-union show, save your money from the first show to put to the Union dues when you need to join. Then wait until you get your next job, and then make an appointment to go in and join. That is called “a must join.” Even if they cannot see you right away, make that appointment, as the company you are working for could be fined quite heavily if you are not registered to join the Union.

Keep reading this post on Toni’s blog, The Acting Biz.

 

 

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Look At Your Contracts

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

After many years dedicated to my students and the business of acting, it has come to my attention that the biz is no longer for actors who just wish to act. It is a business! Both young and older actors must take responsibility to read your contracts, and if anything looks suspicious or is not written in the contract or a rider, please call SAG/ AFTRA immediately and/or your agent or manager.

I am still fighting a Disney show, who told me I was doing a SAG show, paid me SAG wages, but never reported anything to Pension and Welfare or Medical. Not their fault and not SAG/AFTRA’s fault, but mine. The show was made for Disney but not by Disney. I mean where was I? Nine years of residuals gone.

I was working and not looking at residuals for 9 years while they showed the show 4 times a day and I never got the money the residuals or Pension and Health. Please look at everything. As actors, we want to please everyone, and our contracts usually come just before we perform…but take a moment to really look at what you are signing.

Keep reading this post on Toni’s blog, The Acting Biz.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers

The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Is There A Bully In The House?

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

I think the greatest gift a parent can give their child, is a sense of humor.

I have always wondered what makes a child or teen a bully.  Is it their upbringing, their social network, or the fact that they might feel left out, or perhaps, just showing off for their peers.  Now with the movie “Bully” out, I felt it was a good time to air my feelings about this topic since I have worked with children, teens, and college kids most of my adult life and have first hand experienced children taunted and bullied by other children.

I remember being bullied when I was a stand-up comic at the Comedy Store, even when I was doing a good job.  I wondered was it because I was one of the first female comics coming into the scene after Phyllis Dyler, Joan Rivers, and other famous comedians, and I was doing comedy that people weren’t use to it, or was it me?  I learned that if I could control the comedy, that is, do something that would make the audience laugh, I would feel better. If the audience or people were just laughing AT ME, then the feeling was …lonely helplessness.

Watching some of horror news stories about school shootings and of course the Columbine incident, I wondered, if we still had some art programs in schools that weren’t just Drama, Football, and other athletic activities, and brought some “out of the box” school activities, perhaps the children and teens would not feel that helplessness, and have a place to put their stress and harness it into something positive.

Keep reading this post on Toni’s blog, The Acting Biz.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers

The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Top Ten Tips for Auditioning

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

Many people have been recently asking about auditioning techniques.  So here are the top ten tips for auditions.

1. Get the full script and read through it without taking a break.  Do not answer phones, or distract yourself until you have finished reading the entire context of the movie or show and the character’s journey in the show’s situation. It is important while reading the script to just absorb it and not make any judgments or acting choices about the character.

2. If you cannot get the entire script before the audition, try and get to the casting office early and read the script before you audition.  The casting associate or casting director will usually have it available.  Make choices about the intentions of the character (who is now you) and what the character wants and how the character goes about reaching his/her goals actively.

3. Dress appropriately without overdoing it.  Hinting at the wardrobe is more than enough. Realness is more important.  It is not just you saying the words written by the author but what you (the character) are thinking and how you communicate the words.  Commitment is important, so do not judge the character. If the character happens to be a bad person, research what happened to damage the character.  Explore why the character feels that way by creating a back life. Become the character and understand and respect the choices the character begins to make on the journey.

4. Watch television shows if you are auditioning for television and recognize the different styling of the shows.  Educate yourself on the difference between the acting styles on multi -camera shows (played a little bigger for audiences) like “Everyone Loves Raymond” to single camera shows (a bit more realistic most of the time, but sometimes can be comedically a little larger than life) like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Note different styles in dramas as well.

Keep reading this article at Toni’s blog: The Acting Biz.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers

The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

How to Deal with Contracts

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

Remember to view your contracts carefully. Sometimes on a set, everything happens at once.  If I can suggest some things that might help you, I will.

First, of all arrive 30 minutes early to the set.  Check in with the Production Assistant and introduce yourself.  They usually very kindly ask if you want something to drink, water, tea, coffee and perhaps donuts.  Be nice, but turn that stuff down and ask to be  introduced to the makeup and hair department, where you will introduce yourself and ask when they would like to work on you.  Please remember guest and co-stars are usually the first to film, so you want to look good.  If they are not ready yet, ask to go to wardrobe, again, introduce yourself, get your costume and go to your trailer.

Once in your trailer, it gets busy.  First get into your costume, then almost immediately there will be a knock on your door with contracts.  Read them. If there is something you do not understand, ASK.  Call your agent or manager if something is not in the contract that you were told should be, like photos.  SAG does not cover photos, so if it says you are to have a payout and it is not in the contract, have your agent call the production office right away to get that straightened out.

Keep reading this post on The Acting Biz blog.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers

The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Working with Managers and Agents

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

In Hollywood if you are new, or a teen, child, or parent, it can sometimes seem overwhelming.  Remember the whole “feeling” around Hollywood for all actors, even adults, seems to be “You are never enough!”  All this is untrue, but it keeps the actor off balance and can be a slight manipulative way to control the talent.

First of all remember, “You are more than enough!” Do not listen to anyone who remarks you must get new pictures, you must get SAG/AFTRA, etc.  All this will happen the minute you get a SAG/AFTRA job.  Your first job you can do free without joining a union.  After your first job, be prepared to have the monies necessary to join the Union if you get a second job.  Most production companies will give you a little time to make an appointment with SAG/AFTRA  to do what is called a “Must Join.”  However, do not put it off.  The minute you have the second job, call into the Union and make an appointment to pay dues and join immediately.  Some actors who put it off can sometimes lose the job, because the production company does not wish to get a stiff fine, so if you do not join before going to the set, they may just find someone else.

Keep reading this article on Toni’s blog, The Acting Biz.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers

The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.